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  • 19 January 2013, 19:19

Armstrong: I Deserve To Compete Again

Lance Armstrong believes he should be given the opportunity to compete again, saying his life ban feels like a "death penalty".

The 41-year-old Texan has confessed to using performance-enhancing drugs during all seven of his Tour de France victories. He was stripped of all results from August 1, 1998 and banned from sport for life.

Armstrong was competing in triathlons, mountain bike events and marathons before he was sanctioned and believes he deserves that opportunity in the future, suggesting a life ban is not right.

In the second part of their television interview, he told Oprah Winfrey: "I can't lie to you. I'd love the opportunity to be able to compete, but that isn't the reason that I'm doing this.

"Frankly, this might not be the most popular answer, but I think I deserve it (to be able to compete again).

"I deserve to be punished. I'm not sure that I deserve a death penalty."

Eleven of Armstrong's former team-mates gave evidence against him in exchange for six-month suspensions.

He added: "If you look at the situation, if you look at that culture, you look at the sport, you see the punishments. I could go back to that time ...you're trading my story for a six-month suspension.

"That's what people got, what everybody got. I got a death penalty. I'm not saying that that's unfair, necessarily, but I'm saying it's different."

After years of denials, Armstrong confirmed that during his record run, from 1999 to 2005, he used blood-boosting agent EPO, blood doping, testosterone, cortisone and human growth hormone.

Armstrong, who was last October stripped of all results dating from August 1, 1998 and banned from sport for life, denied doping during his comeback from retirement in 2009, when he finished third in the Tour, and 2010.

He has also refuted suggestions he paid off cycling's world governing body, the UCI, to cover up a positive test in 2001.

In hindsight he wishes he had co-operated with the United States Anti-Doping Agency(USADA) investigation which proved his downfall.

Co-operation could have meant a lesser penalty.

Armstrong's long-time sponsors each deserted him in quick succession following the publication of the USADA report, but he said the most challenging moment was when his own Lance Armstrong Foundation, the charity known now as Livestrong, distanced itself from him.

"The foundation is like my sixth child and to make that decision, and to step aside, was big," said Armstrong, who expressed his wish the charity can thrive without being associated with him.

"I wouldn't at all say [I was] forced out, told to leave. I was aware of the pressure. It was the best thing for our organisation, but it hurt like hell. That was the lowest [moment]."

Asked if he feels disgraced, Armstrong said: "Of course, but I also feel humbled. I feel ashamed - this is ugly stuff. It's a process. And I think we're at the beginning of the process."

Armstrong confirmed he has been undergoing therapy to deal with his demons.

His competitive desire remains, though. Asked whether he believes his life ban should be overturned, he said: "Selfishly, yes. But realistically I don't think that's going to happen. And I have to live with that."

Winfrey asked Armstrong: "Did anyone know the whole truth?"

"Yeah," he replied, but there was no follow-up to ascertain who.

Armstrong was emotional when discussing his 13-year-old son Luke, with tears welling up in his eyes and hesitated in giving answers, his voice croaking.

He had discovered Luke was defending him at school and had to address the matter.

Armstrong said: "That's when I knew I had to tell him. He'd never asked me. He'd never said 'Dad, is this true?' He trusted me. He heard about it in the hallways.

"I said: 'Don't defend me anymore'. I said: 'If anyone says anything to you, do not defend me. Just say my dad said he was sorry'.

"He said: 'Look, I love you, you're my dad, this won't change that'."

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